In the hectic telecommunications sector, it’s vital to stay ahead of competitors and meet customers’ ever-growing demands. DevOps for telecom has emerged as a game-changer for telecommunications companies, empowering them to overcome challenges, such as reducing operational expenditures (OpEx), minimizing risks, and accelerating the time to market. At the same time, DevOps in telecom revolutionizes service delivery and enables the industry to reach new heights.
Discover how the power of DevOps in telecom can unlock a future of unprecedented efficiency and agility in the ever-evolving world of telecommunications.
Understanding DevOps in the telecom industry
DevOps is a portmanteau of development and operations, meaning an approach that emphasizes automation and integration between the IT operations and software development departments.
DevOps in the telecom domain aims to streamline the operation, deployment, monitoring, and maintenance of telecommunications systems and services, such as network infrastructure, communication platforms, and software applications. In the telecom context, adopting DevOps can speed up development cycles, enhance overall efficiency, and improve service quality.
Advantages of embracing DevOps in the telecom industry
Telecom DevOps adoption can lead to higher-quality services, enhanced agility, increased operational efficiency, and elevated customer satisfaction, enabling companies to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving industry. What does this mean for telecom operators in practice? Here are the key benefits of a typical DevOps telecom project:
Reduced time to market
The DevOps approach speeds up the deployment and release cycle and avoids bottlenecks through automating processes and collaboration between the development and operations teams. Consequently, telecom firms can offer enhanced customer experiences and maintain a competitive edge.
DevOps practices automate repetitive tasks such as deployment, configuration, and monitoring, minimizing the risk of human error and reducing manual effort. By automating processes, efficiency is enhanced, operations are streamlined, and teams can dedicate their efforts to strategic and value-added endeavors.
Moreover, DevOps emphasizes automated testing, continuous integration, and continuous monitoring, improving the quality and reliability of telecom systems and services. By catching and resolving issues early in the development cycle, DevOps helps prevent service disruptions and reduces downtime.
Telecom systems often must handle increasing workloads and scale quickly to meet changing demands. DevOps practices such as automated scaling and infrastructure as code enable telecom companies to promptly scale their systems up or down, ensuring they can efficiently adapt to evolving requirements.
DevOps also promotes collaboration and communication among teams of specialists such as developers, operators, network engineers, and telecom DevOps engineers. Through dismantling silos and nurturing cross-functional collaboration, telecommunications companies can improve the alignment of collaboration and communication, accelerate decision-making, and strengthen teamwork.
DevOps practices can help optimize costs in telecom by reducing waste, minimizing manual interventions, and improving resource utilization. Companies can achieve cost savings through automation and efficient resource management while delivering high-quality services.
Challenges telcos encounter while embracing DevOps transformation
Operators in the telecom industry may face several challenges when adopting DevOps practices. Common challenges include:
Insufficient overview of infrastructure status
From our experience, many telcos need more insight into whether their company’s infrastructure aligns with market standards and best practices to identify shortcomings.
Migrating to the cloud is quite a journey for everyone engaged, from the technology and finance department to operations and procurement managers. How scalable, reliable, and agile will the new environment be after migration? What will be the cost optimization in the long run? How will DevOps for telecom help move CapEx (capital expenditure) to OpEx?
Consequently, how can you increase transparency over operational costs and operational efficiency? How can you avoid a lack of data accessibility and data management to enable more cost-effective ways of working with data?
Cost optimization (FinOps)
The challenge of cost optimization in telecom DevOps adoption also entails several subtasks. For example, telcos might need to see the scalability potential of their capacities and have a usage-based cost in terms of using cloud, or they might need more expertise related to internal cloud infrastructure. Also, telecom companies might need more transparency to predict and monitor current consumption to ensure they are within their budget.
Performance efficiency and reliability
Performance issues range from unpredicted system crashes and the inability to cope with load spikes to a lack of application and environmental performance monitoring. As a result, telcos might lose revenue or suffer reputational risks associated with poor product performance. More severe challenges may include lost or damaged data due to system underperformance.
Telcos might need more infrastructure or application monitoring processes and, as a result, be unable to evaluate the current state of infrastructure operations. In turn, this leads to the need for a holistic view of the company’s infrastructure and hurdles to obtaining real-time insights on current performance.
Some cases of infrastructure governance include a lack of monitoring on both the development and production levels to plan application scaling and performance.
Comparing telco and IT workloads
It is impossible to copy-paste a DevOps approach, since there are significant differences between typical telco and IT workloads. Telecom workloads require extensive infrastructure customization to meet functional and business requirements.
Unlike in IT, where lifecycle management is embedded within the software, telecom lifecycle management is managed separately from the workload. Moreover, telcos, especially mobile operators, primarily deal with software packages rather than tinkering with application code.
Additionally, telcos operate within the dynamic network function virtualization (NFV) ecosystem, which entails multiple cloud management servers and frequent application versions or releases, making the workload environment more dynamic.
Cloud consulting services
Learn how to drive your telecom operations to new heights of efficiency and innovation and unlock the true potential of DevOps.
Evolution of the network engineer’s role in telecom DevOps adoption
Adopting DevOps in telecom profoundly transforms the work of network engineers, reshaping their responsibilities and emphasizing automation, cross-functional collaboration, and continuous improvement.
Network engineers are no longer confined to managing static network configurations. Instead, they are actively involved in developing and maintaining infrastructure as code (IaC) templates, enabling the setup of network resources and rapid provisioning. This shift empowers network engineers to respond quickly to changing business needs and efficiently scale network resources.
Furthermore, network engineers are embracing a more holistic approach to service delivery, working closely with development and operations teams. Adopting DevOps practices also means that network engineers are more involved in continuously monitoring and analyzing network performance metrics. Network engineers of today leverage automation tools to optimize network configurations in real time and detect anomalies, providing a seamless user experience and minimizing downtime.
In essence, DevOps in telecom is redefining the network engineer’s role. Today’s network engineers combine the functions of cloud engineer, release engineer, DevOps (or platform) engineer, build engineer, site reliability engineer, and DevSecOps engineer.
Suggested approach to DevOps integration
Let’s explore an optimal DevOps approach rooted in multi-stage environments tailored specifically for the telecom sector. Given the distinctive context of the telecom industry, we can divide DevOps into two primary categories:
- Streamlining the virtual network functions (VNF) / cloud-native network functions (CNF)
- Automating comprehensive testing (vertical and functional)
Source: DevOps for Telco Industry! by Ali Murtaza
VNF/CNF workload onboarding automation
Workload onboarding includes two primary categories: Virtual network function as code and infrastructure as code (IaC). Virtual network functions need the management and orchestration layer with associated metadata and descriptors. Within a VNF package, which includes the VNF descriptor (VNFD), lies a comprehensive depiction of the VNF’s requisites, configuration guidelines, and lifecycle management protocols. The VNF onboarding process can be understood through a sequence of four steps.
Infrastructure as code (IaC)
Infrastructure as code represents a state-of-the-art method for managing IT infrastructure, encompassing automation of the provisioning and management of network, server, and other IT resources. This method works in parallel with scripting system configurations, enabling rigorous testing, seamless sharing, and efficient reuse and consequently diminishing the likelihood of human errors while increasing the pace and uniformity of infrastructure deployments. Infrastructure as code might have a declarative approach (defining the system’s desired state) or an imperative approach (defining specific commands to achieve the desired configuration).
Tailored telecom DevOps adoption and cloud consulting services for your business needs
Our services are designed to enable enterprises to harness the full potential of high-performance public, private, or hybrid cloud environments based on years of collaboration with AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. Our spectrum of cloud consulting and implementation services empowers businesses to navigate the competitive landscape with precision, emphasizing optimized performance, organizational agility, and cost efficiency.
Infrastructure assessment: Gain comprehensive insights into your system architecture and IT infrastructure design, ensuring a well-informed cloud adoption strategy.
Seamless cloud migration: Transition to a scalable and reliable environment with minimal operational disruption. Seamlessly migrate legacy infrastructure to the cloud or navigate between cloud platforms to enhance workload scalability and performance optimization, guided by our adept cloud advisory services.
Cost optimization: Elevate transparency and accountability in cloud expenditures, all while maximizing technological utility. Embrace a dynamic pay-as-you-go approach to cost management, ensuring nimbleness, budget adherence, predictive expenditure analysis, and sustained long-term savings.
Performance enhancement: Engineer a dynamic, high-performance cloud architecture aligned with evolving business demands. Our comprehensive cloud consulting services provide holistic insights and strategic roadmaps for progressive infrastructure development.
Infrastructure governance: Amplify cloud application performance monitoring and enhance infrastructure operations. Our adept cloud infrastructure consultants facilitate seamless coordination across operational tiers, furnishing an impartial project overview while upholding cost control, compliance with regulations and industry standards, and data security.
Reliability: Foster uninterrupted operational efficiency even during peak loads, courtesy of Intellias’ expert cloud technology consulting services. Enjoy unparalleled uptime, sustained business continuity, and streamlined system recoverability — hallmarks of cloud-native enterprises.
Holistic cloud security: Bolster the resilience of your cloud ecosystem through a meticulously crafted, multi-faceted security framework. As a dedicated cloud consulting partner, we orchestrate a comprehensive approach to safeguard your service integrity.
Operational excellence: Streamline workloads, gain nuanced operational insights, and refine supporting procedures to extract maximum business value. You can rely on our cloud engineering prowess to instate and sustain operational excellence, making your organization’s journey exceptional.
Prerequisites for a minimal-scale environment
The optimal approach to a minimum-scale environment should adhere to the pipeline or stages illustrated below, prompting the significant question of how many environments would be appropriate. In the following sections, we delve into the most suitable sandbox environment to meet a telecom operator’s needs.
A sandbox is an isolated testing environment allowing users to access files or execute programs without impacting the underlying application, platform, or system. A sandbox is invaluable for software developers assessing new code and cybersecurity experts examining potentially harmful software. Additionally, sandboxes offer a secure space for executing malicious code, protecting the network, host, and interconnected devices from harm. Employing a sandbox to identify malware presents an added layer of defense against security risks.
There are a lot of perspectives regarding the organization of an operator’s testing facility. However, in terms of cost-effectiveness, time-to-market efficiency, and risk minimization, there are three principal options:
The steps illustrated below apply to both the testing environment and the staging and production environments. The need for multiple stages on the path to production becomes apparent as the testing environment provides comprehensive validation, especially for substantial changes like system version updates. Staging, however, is suitable for patch releases related to cloud management and workload servers. Every new solution undergoes staging to enhance operational assurance and minimize risks.
Capabilities and toolbox
Intellias is dedicated to ensuring software quality, reducing the time to market within cloud platforms (AWS, MS Azure, Google), and implementing virtualization, containers, and orchestration. Our focus spans streamlined integration, delivery, and operations, including continuous integration and continuous deployment processes, profound cloud computing proficiency, infrastructure as code implementation, operations management, and robust monitoring capabilities.
Other DevOps strategies: Release management
Beyond the model discussed above, DevOps approaches can include A/B testing or blue-green deployment, the canary deployment strategy, and the N+K model. Let’s briefly touch upon these options.
A/B testing or blue–green deployment strategy
The blue–green deployment strategy is a fundamental DevOps approach that enhances software quality in production and facilitates the rapid rollout of end-user services. Blue–green deployment involves hosting two distinct software release versions, making it best suited for individual applications. While one version remains live, ensuring uninterrupted service to end users, the other is reserved for maintenance, verification, and testing. The inactive version is upgraded and tested without impacting the live version during system upgrades or maintenance. Once tests are completed, all live traffic is seamlessly redirected to the new version to ensure continuous delivery of updates and upgrades.
Implementing the blue–green approach necessitates two identical production environments to enable swift rollbacks and facilitate smooth transitions between software versions. Network traffic is redirected from the green to the blue environment using a DNS router after confirming successful tests and the stability of the new release. This seamless process enables uninterrupted delivery of services and updates, eliminating downtime.
However, it’s important to note that the blue–green deployment strategy is especially effective for research and development centers with a single-application focus and a fixed vertical environment. Consider also the challenges associated with:
|Database synchronization||One potential risk involves accidental changes to the database schema between production environment versions.|
|Delivery pipeline complexity||Automation of the Blue/Green approach can be complex due to the need for two identical production environments and the intricate trigger point between the green and blue stages.|
|Cost and effort||Implementing the blue-green strategy involves a higher overhead cost as both environments must be available simultaneously. Maintaining parallel environments also requires additional effort and resources, increasing costs.|
Canary deployment strategy
The canary deployment approach can also be used in telecommunication networks. It targets a limited user group for testing the new release, allowing for bug identification and subsequent refinement. A canary deployment minimizes the impact of potential errors on a small user base during testing. Meanwhile, it exhibits longer turnaround times for releases, making it better suited for projects with relatively few iterations and less compatible with telecommunications workloads.
In the N+K model, “N” signifies the minimum number of active service handlers necessary to meet the desired capacity. At the same time, “K” represents the additional deployed handlers for bolstering high availability in the event of handler failures. In the N+K model, each service handler is continuously active, managing traffic as a pooled resource and offering surplus capacity beyond requirements. In case of a handler’s failure within the pool, other handlers are ready to take on the additional load, seamlessly ensuring uninterrupted service. As long as the number of failed handlers remains within the limit “K,” the designed capacity is assured.
Telecom B/OSS with on-premises OpenShift platform
A leading global provider of software and services to the communications and media industries chose us for our expertise serving customers worldwide. The client needed to make a full end-to-end carrier-grade microservices development platform that would accelerate cloud technology and DevOps adoption at scale.
Some of the main problems included increasing configurability and scalability (including the necessity to address changes in application properties), insufficient time to market, managing complex, multi-vendor networks, and inefficient implementation of CI/CD pipelines. Thanks to Intellias’ expertise, the client achieved tangible results:
- After implementing an improved mature approach to the CI/CD process, our client achieved several benefits including blue–green deployment, high availability, and stability.
- The OpenShift service allows the client to reduce operations-related costs and provides resiliency, security, and deployment efficiency.
- Using Vault allows the client to store and hide vulnerable secrets from unauthorized users and services.
- SonarQube increases code quality.
- Helm helps define, install, and upgrade even the most complex Kubernetes application.
- Elastic collects and provides visibility into logs, offering an easier way to analyze them through Open Distro as a web visualizer.
- Deployment and maintenance are faster, more efficient, and more accessible than before the platform was developed.
Cloud optimization and assessment of DevOps practices
A UAE-based digital bank is developing a simplified approach that provides an impeccable partner banking ecosystem. They requested a third-party opinion on the maturity of their business and technical areas.
Using the Intellias Enterprise DevOps Maturity assessment matrix, our experts focused on six areas for improvement:
- build, deployment, and environments
- test and validation
- reporting and metrics;
- and culture
Our cooperation resulted in the following business outcomes:
- Within five months, cloud Infrastructure optimization performed by Intellias reduced infrastructure costs, enabling the client to save around $1M per year(47%) on infrastructure.
- Our client obtained a clear vision of actions needed to ensure software deployment activities don’t impact the business and customer experience.
Migration from on-premises to Azure Cloud for a large service provider
We designed and built a cloud environment from scratch for large B2B IT service providers in the US and Canadian markets. As a result, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Illinois was able to:
- Define a strategy for a multi-region high-availability solution based on Azure Kubernetes Service and Azure Front Door
- Integrate an on-premises network with a cloud network for a hybrid solution
- Build DevOps processes and pipelines for development teams using Azure DevOps and GitHub Actions
- Implement reusable infrastructure as code using Terraform for Azure and Kubernetes
- Build a highly scalable monitoring solution based on Datadog for Kubernetes services, Azure Function and Logic apps, VMs, and IBM I applications
- Build an SRE process for on-premises and cloud environments to support 24/7 on-call rotation using the follow-the-sun model
- Integrate Datadog with PagerDuty to provide fast incident response
- Implement and track service-level objectives
- Monitor Windows and Linux-based servers using Dynatrace
- Set up a Blue–Green deployment model for Kubernetes-based applications
Fueling your telecom revolution
Embracing DevOps in the telecom industry isn’t just a choice but a strategic imperative. The dynamic nature of telecom requires an approach that can keep up with the pace of change, delivering high-quality services and empowering operational efficiency. DevOps is the perfect blend of collaboration, automation, and continuous improvement, empowering telcos to streamline their operations, stay competitive in a fierce market, and enhance customer satisfaction.
At Intellias, we are not just DevOps advocates but enablers. Our tailored telecom DevOps adoption and cloud consulting services are designed to guide your journey toward a more agile, efficient, and competitive future. Whether you need to assess your infrastructure, optimize costs, perform a seamless cloud migration, ensure operational excellence, or enhance performance, our team will support you at every step.
Contact us today to drive your telecom operations to new heights of efficiency and innovation and unlock the true potential of DevOps.